Retail survival in an online world

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We’ve all seen the dire predictions…online commerce in general, and Amazon in particular…is going to kill brick and mortar retail.  The rapid growth of e-commerce certainly feeds that emotion and statistics show a drop in foot traffic at retail locations year after year.  However, a closer evaluation of the numbers is in order.

Forrester Research projections for 2017 retail sales does include healthy online sales growth of 14% over prior year with a total of $459 billion.  That accounts for 12.9% of all retail sales.  Forrester projects further growth to 17% by 2022.  This is certainly a significant share but it does indicate there is still more than 80% of the retail sales market left for brick and mortar operations.  The task for retailers is to do what they can to prevent or minimize the customers their specific operation loses to the online wave and to maximize the value of the foot traffic they are able to generate.  Here are some suggestions.

Emphasize speed and convenience

There are some shoppers with immediate needs that can’t be met by online purchases even if overnight shipping is offered (same day delivery of online purchases is not widely available).  Make sure your customers know you can meet urgent needs and have inventory to back up the claim.

Market to “touch and feel” shoppers

In many product categories a large share of consumers still prefer to personally touch, feel, inspect and try an item before they purchase it.  Brick and mortar stores are uniquely positioned to serve these customers.  You don’t want to become a “showroom” for online retailers by training your associates to demonstrate that the item seen in-store can’t be purchased for less online.

Have a strong online presence

To be successful long term you must embrace the marketing power of the Internet.  Even shoppers that want an in-store experience will shop online first.  71% of shoppers expect to view inventory online and 50% expect the ability to purchase there, even if they pick up the product at a store location.

Personalize customer interactions

The human touch is still important.  Department stores like Von Maur, Nordstrom and Nieman-Marcus attract and maintain a strong core of customers by providing exceptional customer service.  You need to hire and train the right people to implement this strategy.

Go beyond commodities

Sourcing unique merchandise, often from local sources, can create a strong point of difference VS online retailers.

Don’t go it alone

If you are in a mall or shopping center location work with the landlord and other retailers to enact strong traffic generation marketing programs.  Shoppers need a compelling reason to visit…do what you can to give it to them.

Communicate your store USP

What ever strategies work best for you, make sure you constantly and consistently tell your story to shoppers.  Then make sure the in-store experience reflects  your position.

At R&A Marketing we live and breathe retail and understand both online and traditional sales and marketing strategies.  It is our belief that integrating programming to create a seamless experience for shoppers can maximize the success of our customers.

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